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12 Dec

Week 83: “Sonata VII” by Johann Rosenmuller

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A lot of people find baroque music to be a bit showy, a bit too fancy for its own good. But you don’t need to be wearing a powdered wig to appreciate this wonderful piece by Johann Rosenmuller.

In the musical history books, Rosenmuller is a overshadowed by Baroque powerhouses Bach and Handel. In his own time, he didn’t fare much better: he held a promising job at a church in Leipzig, but his career was thrown off the rails when he was imprisoned for homosexual activities in 1655. He fled to Italy and didn’t return to his homeland until just before his death. Meanwhile, the promising job he had once held in Leipzig before his imprisonment had been filled by a young man named…Johann Sebastian Bach.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The way the strings creep upwards at the beginning…

2. …and then creep downwards at 1:33. The slow chromatic rise and fall gives the song a lot of emotional weight.

3. After sliding around chromatically for the first three minutes, the chords abruptly begin giving us dramatic pauses and cadences. The last cadence, especially, takes several seconds to resolve, before ending on a heartwarming major chord.

Recommended listening activity:

Breathing on a window, using your finger to write the name of the person you secretly like, and then immediately erasing it.

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